Top Five Confusing SAT Words

With thousands of words to memorize, the SAT often leads to students to jumble up words in their heads. It’s hard to separate the most common SAT words from the no-shows on test day. And it’s hardly their faults—the English language is consists of many words that either look and/or sound very similar. See if you know the difference between the words below.


Loathe vs. Loath

The first word is the most common one, as in: I loathe you—you ate all my yummy chocolates. An easy way to remember that loathe means ‘to hate intensely’ is to look at the last four letters: lo‘athe’. If you unscramble ‘athe’ you get hate.

I wish I had a fun nifty mnemonic for loath, but alas I don’t. To be loath is to be reluctant.

He was loath to study for the SAT, but realized his future was at stake. 


Indigent vs. Indigenous

The first word is an adjective which means ‘very poor’. It can also work as a noun:

Improve your SAT score; start your Magoosh SAT prep today

The indigents down by the railroad tracks slept in soggy cardboard boxes.

The second word means ‘native to a certain area’.

Despite what many believe, the kiwi is not a fruit indigenous to New Zealand but was originally grown in China.


Discrete vs. Discreet

To be discreet simply means ‘not to draw attention to something’. This word is more commonly used than discrete.

The student discreetly raised her hand and asked softly whether she could leave to use the restroom.

Discrete means ‘broken into distinct groups’. For the word ‘discrete’, I do have a nifty mnemonic: notice the ‘t’ in discrete. It breaks up the two ‘e’s. Now the two e’s are discrete (they are split by the ‘t’).


Extant vs. Extinct

The first word means ‘still existing’. The second means ‘no longer in existence’.

Many of Shakespeare’s original manuscripts are extant—the same cannot be said of Euripides’ works.


Deter vs. Defer

The first word means ‘to prevent something from happen, usually by threat’. The second can mean ‘to submit to another person’s judgment or authority’. It can also mean ‘to put aside for later’.

The word ‘defer’ has many different definitions but don’t let that deter you from learning it.

Hopefully the tricks I used in these words also show how to remember SAT vocabulary in a way that’s better than just remembering or scrolling through SAT vocabulary flashcards.

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  • Chris Lele

    Chris Lele is the Principal Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh. Chris graduated from UCLA with a BA in Psychology and has 20 years of experience in the test prep industry. He's been quoted as a subject expert in many publications, including US News, GMAC, and Business Because. In his time at Magoosh, Chris has taught countless students how to tackle the GRE, GMAT, SAT, ACT, MCAT (CARS), and LSAT exams with confidence. Some of his students have even gone on to get near-perfect scores. You can find Chris on YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook!

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

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